Joe’s Videos

It’s hard not to like Joe Sanfelippo. Despite his annoying habit of posting the Packer logo after they win, he’s a good man, doing good work. He also uses video in a pretty unique way. As part of a workshop I was doing with some local administrators, I wanted to share Joe’s approach and thinking around how and why he uses this content. I was intending to have him share during our live session but he wasn’t able to make that time so he graciously agreed to sit down with me via Zoom for a quick chat. Here’s the edited version of our conversation.

Delight 22: Peyton and Eli

Football is the only sport where I’ll watch any game even if my team isn’t playing. I’ve been a big fan of Monday Night Football since the 70’s when I discovered it as a kid. The production value, the fact that it was on during primetime and the announcers made it must see TV for me. Over the years MNF has lost much of its lustre and even now, Sunday Night Football is generally seen as the main event for NFL fans.

So while I don’t make MNF must see TV, unless it’s a particularly engaging matchup, I’ll watch. This week was the first Monday night game and I didn’t even bother to record it. I checked the score and since it was somewhat close I thought I’d watch the last quarter. It was being shown on 3 different TSN channels which gets the ESPN feeds. I assumed they were all the same but realized they weren’t. There was the standard broadcast but there was also an alternative that featured Peyton and Eli Manning, watching remotely and Russell Wilson was joining them. It took me a few minutes to realize this was not a insert from the main feed but rather this was its own viewing experience. I later realized they had Charles Barkley on earlier but from the 4th quarter until the completion of overtime, Wilson and the Manning brothers shared their insights, commentary and reactions. And it was a delight!

I’ve always been a fan of getting as close to the action as possible. I love the inside scoop. These three were focused on each other and the game and less so the audience. In other words, they didn’t try to explain what a M route was or a nickel defense, they just watch it as colleagues and fans. We were sitting on the couch in the same room and getting the knowledge of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. As I learned from this article, they did a bunch of other cool stuff throughout the broadcast. I can see the value in having both feeds, certainly a traditional broadcast with announcer and commentator is a tried and true formula. But maybe it’s the formula that is tiresome. All media, particularly broadcast media is realizing that their past methods are not resonating with younger audiences. They are looking to social media and the TikTok generation to attract younger people, I’m not sure if this was such an attempt but for me it was refreshing and something that will make me tune into any game. Even if it’s Detroit vs. Green Bay.

Understanding How Communities Work

Having held the title of “Community Manager” and been directly involved in this work for a decade, you’d think I’d know more about the topic. The truth is I’ve been searching for a framework, structure or maybe a magic bullet the whole time. By many accounts and metrics, I’ve had success in this role. I can think of all the events, relationships and connections that I’ve made and fostered and feel pretty good. And yet, I still struggle with how to articulate what community really is and how it can be created, designed and how to grow and nurture it.

I suppose it’s much like teaching. Yes, there are many frameworks and strategies that can be useful ways to think about teaching but the reality is, teaching in schools is really about connecting with humans and that is something that comes with uncertainty and variables that are very difficult to control.

My current role with ALP includes a continued pursuit of building and creating community. It’s always a challenge to explain this to those inside the education world, let alone those outside it. I continually reflect on things that have worked for me and others. When I engage others in this conversation in broad terms, the way each of us thinks about community is very personal. While I know and believe there is no magic bullet, I’m trying to create enough opportunities and spaces for everyone I serve to find their community while still being able to see how they all work in concert.

It begins with the word itself. “Community” is one we toss around quite a bit. Is a classroom a community? Is the MOOC or course we take a community? Are those you interact with on Twitter a community? Yes? Maybe? No? Whether you use the word is not critical but I suppose I’m talking about someone consistent or known group of people that you feel some connection to and some sense of belonging. That to me is the key difference between networks and communities. Networks are weak ties and belonging and connection are not critical. Typically, the larger the network the better. People are nodes of information and ideas that you can access. Communities have some degree of obligation and affiliation. They can be named and identified.

As I think about online communities I’m trying to understand how platforms to support and influence communities. Sometimes communities reside in a single platform. These can be open or closed spaces. Closed spaces allow for more intimate, focused conversation that is better at creating a sense of belonging and trust. Open spaces are more inclusive and allow people more freedom to move in and out.

A great personal example for me that helps me analyze how online communities work is No Laying Up. They are a group of young golf enthusiasts who have built a large audience based on some fresh takes on the world of professional golf and golf in general. While beginning with a Twitter account, they are now mostly known for their podcasts but also have a Youtube channel where they are producing high-quality content as well as a message board and Instagram. They also host the odd in-person event and tournament which many take advantage of. My personal connections are mostly with the podcast and Twitter. The message board and forum are definitely for the hard-core members. I essentially consume the content without much interaction. Do I think of myself as a “community member”? Only in the sense that community is a word I understand and use frequently. Obviously, with their large numbers of followers/fans/members, each one would describe their associations differently.

So my wondering after all that rambling is what kinds of online community spaces, platforms and interactions work for you? Given my definition, what online communities do you belong to? Do they have an in-person component? What do you enjoy or benefit from most with those communities? I’m asking you to do a weird thing here and that is please leave a comment. Thanks.

Delight 19: Data

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this but I do love data.

It shouldn’t really surprise me. As a kid, I fell in love with sports, particularly baseball because of statistics. Baseball is a sport that loves numbers and data, click over here to play online. Well before cyber metrics came along, baseball fans followed home runs, batting averages, strikeouts, stolen bases and other individual races as much as they followed the pennant race.

Same with football and hockey for me. I remember in grade 5 being asked my favourite book and I said “ Pro Football’s Street and Smith Official Yearbook 1975” Mrs. Cram was not impressed. I would memorize stats and could tell you Fran Tarkenton’s throwing percentage and Chuck Foreman’s yards per carry.

Fast forward to adulthood and teaching and data were equated to tests and other measures. While this practice of “data-driven” instruction was taking root, I intuitively felt at odds. Without having the language or research I knew teaching was a human experience and there was a danger in trying to quantify learning. The work of Alfie Kohn in particular started me on the path of de-emphasizing grades and data. This has remained a theme for me.

It was about 8 years ago when I got my Fitbit that I had a small epiphany. At one point, Fitbit created a community and those communities could create challenges. At first, when asked to join a challenge I would always decline but for whatever reason, I accepted one. Now I was in a daily challenge with 10 other people, some I knew but most I didn’t. One evening I’m sitting on the couch watching TV with my wife and I get a notification that said, “Bill S. has now passed you”. Without even thinking about it, I stood up and starting walking on the spot. My wife asked, ” What are you doing?”

“Bill S. has just passed me”

“Who is Bill S.?”

“I don’t know but he’s not going to beat me” As silly as that sounded it was true. I was immediately struck with the apparent disconnect between my educationally-based belief that learning should largely be an intrinsic pursuit not swayed necessarily by data and my current lizard-brained activity of running on the spot to defeat a random person whom I may never meet.

The truth is that my daily goal of 11,000 steps is some combination of intrinsic and extrinsic learning. I love the buzz on my wrist when I meet that goal of 11,000 steps. I realize it’s not the end goal when it comes to my health but it’s a fun reminder. Gamifying things matters to some of us. Others find it distracts them from the real goal. I’m good with that.

Finding new ways to entertain yourself can be daunting, however, if you hop over to here you will find a lot of games that will make you have a great time.

I have a lot of data on my golf game. I have used an app for over 10 years that I track every single round I’ve played in that time. I can tell you when I played a certain course, my score on each hole, the number of fairways I hit, greens in regulation, putts and more. I use that data to help inform me about what areas I need to work on. However, I wouldn’t say it’s much more than my own personal gamification of the sport. That said, I have to be very careful not to let that data play a big role. I wrote this years ago and it represents a very important perspective that I maintain.

This is not an either/or conversation about data but more about emphasis. I like data and use it when I play. At the same time, I hate it when I let data get in the way. Focusing on data too much makes me forget about the sun on my face. It makes me forget that I’m with my friends and enjoying a laugh and time together. Focusing on data can make me forget I’m on a beautiful piece of land. It makes me forget how great it feels when I make a perfect shot, even if it only happens rarely. Golf is a wonderful game but it’s so much more than a score.  I always need to remind myself of this.

I guess I’m a numbers guy. I like data and yes, I find delight in data. My phone is full of data. Maybe the key is that I find delight in it but I don’t find all the answers it in. Delight has a bit of a whimsical feel that can sometimes place things in their proper perspective. Thanks for reading this and while I don’t usually solicit comments, I’d love to hear a bit about your relationship with data and if indeed there are moments when it brings you delight.

Delight 18: Grass

Not that kind of grass. Grass represents summer which as a Canadian is something I feel we savor more than those who have never or rarely experienced -40F/C temperatures.

Grass, for me was first associated with baseball. John Fogerty’s opening line of Centerfield says it well:

Well, a-beat the drum and hold the phone

The sun came out today

We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field

Baseball diamonds are special places. Even the word “diamond” adds a bit of delight to what is essential a pasture. I remember seeing major league ball parks where the groundskeeper would etch a logo into the outfield.

It’s totally unnecessary, superfluous and yet brings delight to those watching and playing. My love affair with grass shifted to golf courses. As I began playing more golf as a teenager, I also worked on a golf course and learned a little about growing grass, types of grasses and how to maintain them. I can tell you about Bent, Bermuda, Rye, Poa Annua, Kentucky bluegrass and various other strands. The experience of walking on these carpet-like surfaces is in itself delightful. The softness, the smoothness and the smell are all part of a visceral experience for me. I golf a lot and this sensation is something I think about every time I’m on a golf course, even if it’s the course I’ve played hundreds of times. Going to a new course only heightens my awareness.

While I’ll likely never work at a golf course again, my love of grass shifted to my lawn. I cut my grass way too often and way too short. I completely understand that it’s better to have your grass a bit longer but I’m going for a certain look. I often double cut my grass to mirror the crisscross pattern you’ll see in outfields and fairways. No one in my family cares or comments it’s just for me. Having dogs has complicated this process. During those -40 winter days, I ski all days with the best snowboard pants and let me dogs do their business in the back yard resulting in this look in the spring.

All those splotchy patches need reseeding. I get on my hands and knees and meticulously try to revive each patch. It takes several weeks but eventually, it comes back and after a fresh cut, looks like this:

And I take pictures of grass and occasionally in the winter when it’s covered in snow, I look at these photos and smile knowing I’ll have a chance to rebuild and recreate this little piece of heavenly surface.